Saturday, 24 November 2012

Boat Renovation – First Steps

Well, lots of advice received about how to set about renovating an old GRP boat. Lists and sequences are important and the temptation is to dive in before a proper project plan has been made. John Alberg (the Unikely Boat Builder), as usual, provided some very sound and practical suggestions based on years of experience. John is a guy to ignore at your peril!

He implied that there is always a temptation to get into cabin refurbishment and renovation when, in reality, the important thing is to make sure your boat is safe and seaworthy. Comfort and aesthetics can come later, especially if time is limited.

As I explained in my last post, time wasn’t limited when I embarked on this project, but it became very limited when I took delivery of the boat. Delivery date coincided with a critical phase of house renovation and a call back to the old office to undertake a project or two. To make matters worse, winter is just around the corner.

So, in the next week or two I intend to take John’s advice and check the bits that matter – mast rigging, ropes, sails, engine etc. But even then, where to start? Well, this old tub came with lots of equipment – some of which may work and some which I wouldn’t want to rely on. The compass for example is ‘fixed’ at 280 degrees no matter what direction the boat happens to be pointing. 

So to begin I have taken off a couple of barrow loads of stuff to perform some kind of triage – assess what works, what might be made to work and what needs throwing away. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of throwing away.

 The VHF is ancient with very few working channels. Several lifejackets are perished and there are two cookers. One seems to have been cannibalised to make repairs to the other. My real concern however, is the electrics. The wires resemble a tangled spider’s web rather than anything else. Well, if you want to make an omelette, first you have to break the eggs! I’m tempted to rip out all the wires and start again. There is a book ‘The 12 Volt Bible’ – think I need to order it.

Once the boat is clear and I have room to move, I can start thinking about the priority jobs that will get me afloat in spring.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

New Boats & London Buses

Londoners often comment that you can wait hours for a bus and then three will appear all at the same time. There was a TV programme about this recently where the mathematics of the phenomenon were explained and yes it seems that buses do have a power of attraction to each other. I couldn’t hope to replicate the maths to explain it but essentially if buses leave the same location at say ten minute intervals along the same route, they will tend to bunch up during the course of their journey. The first bus has to stop at every stop, the second bus less so, because the first bus has picked up all the passengers. In effect the later buses tend to travel faster and catch the first.

What has this to do with buying a new boat, well not a lot except that having spend a fairly lazy year looking for a new boat, and renovating a house in France – and guess what – a number of factors coincide to make this not the ideal time to become the owner of a boat requiring major work. Firstly, having stepped out of mainstream nine to five full-time work, I now find myself in demand as a sort of fixer, and I have just agreed to undertake a project described as ‘maybe ten days work’, Well, already I know it’ll take a good deal longer than that.

Secondly, the house renovation has reached a critical stage. The ground floor is wet cement, I’m ‘camping’ on the upper floors, access via a ladder, cooking on a single burner camping stove and washing up in the bath. And finally, winter is on the doorstep – with lots of rain and wind – not the perfect weather for renovating anything – house or boat. And so I look back to those idilic wasted days of summer and autumn when I should have been getting on with things rather than dreaming.
Still the good news is that the boat is here with a beautifully painted green hull and she is parked up in the prettiest boatyard I have ever seen.

First job is to make a kind of list, I guess, of all the obvious tasks, and then determine to best order of work. Actually, two lists might be better than one - a list for dry days and a list for wet ones. A bonus with this boat is a charcoal stove in the cabin so no matter how cold and wet, I should still be able to move something forward. Who knows, if the house renovation doesn’t pick up speed I may have to relocate to the boat for a while anyway.

The delivery, by the way, was pretty uneventful but there was one funny incident when I met Mike at a pre-arranged rendezvous so that I could direct him for the final few miles along the back-roads to the boatyard.

We had agreed to meet at Joe’s bar, by the harbour at Plouer. Joe buys the drinks from the local supermarket and sells them from his trailer on the quayside. Mike’s wife who accompanied Mike, asked Joe for a coffee. Well he tried his best, borrowing a spoonful of Nescafe from the local marina office, a couple of sugars from the boatshed next door and using his microwave to get some heat into it. There was no milk – but well, if you ask for something exotic, as Joe explained, you need to give him a bit more notice.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Buying a Boat

Checkout new posting on Essential Reading and Quiz Pages - Updates for the Galley Page coming soon!
SO, I’m waiting for my boat to be delivered with a shiny newly painted hull and I’m hoping that the paint job is up to standard. I’ve put a good deal of faith in this guy to deliver on this and would hate to have to renegotiate the deal because his skill at painting isn’t up to it.

Meantime, I need to acquire a whole raft of DIY skills if I am to launch within my cost target. Suddenly I need to become a plumber, electrician, mechanic, woodworker, painter, and I need to understand glass fibre.

Now this may be escapism, but my natural inclination is to resort to books and read up on the subjects. It would be helpful of course if I knew the sequence of tasks facing me, then my reading could be ‘timely’, i.e. read about it tonight, do the job tomorrow. One of the frustrations of my previous life was that the Department would introduce new software and on occasion I might need to use it maybe four times per year. So, I’d undertake the training and then have no practical use for it for maybe three months – by which time, I’d forgotten the training.

Three things I do know however:

The boat (apart from the hull) will be in a sad state and will require cleaning and polishing at least. Large areas will also need painting but I’m hoping to avoid using paint where-ever I can.

From what I have seen of the boat, she will need a new electrical system

There will be woodwork to do

So, I now have a collection of books on order and one or two have been delivered. I’ll review and post notes on the ones I find most useful next door on the Essential Reading Page, and the jewels of information, hints and tips I discover, will be posted here. So, if you’re interested in getting afloat, it may help you avoid pointless reading.

As usual, all comments are gratefully received especially if they offer, different, easier or cheaper solutions.

Here’s one I picked up from John Almberg on the ‘Unlikely Boatbuilder Blog

Varnishing – cheap brushes shed hairs and are a pain – they can completely ruin a good job – BUT you can use them IF you comb them first. So, get a cheap brush and comb it vigorously until it stops shedding hairs (two minutes maybe?) and then she’s as good as a much more expensive item.

Well, that’s something I’ll definitely try!